I often see that a lot of Anime series have a few extra episodes. Some are explicitly labeled as Specials, others labeled as OVAs. I get Specials, but I don't quite understand the term OVAs.

I googled, and found this: What is the difference between an OVA and an OAV?, but all I understood from it is that:

OVA/OAV stands for Original Video Animation

Now that doesn't explain much, does it? So my question is, how is it different from other extra episodes (Specials)? Are they the same thing and the producers use the terms interchangeably or something else?

  • There are some OVA's out there that are straight up non-canon. Completely different art styles, completely different plots. Think of them as authorized anthological fan-fic. Commented Mar 8 at 10:20

5 Answers 5


Broadly, the two terms could be interchanged, although there are a few points of (almost) difference:

  1. OVAs are generally released for home video (be that VHS, DVD, or whatever), whereas it's possible for a Special to be released as a television broadcast that is just separate from the rest of the show.
  2. OVAs are often shorter than a normal episode of the show, while Specials are often as long or longer, although this definitely doesn't always hold.
  3. Some OVAs are not associated with a show, so they aren't a "special episode" of anything. For example, the series Video Girl Ai was only ever released as a 6 episode straight-to-video OVA.
  • 2
    Some OVAs are not associated with a show You can say they are a show or even a series in its own right.
    – nhahtdh
    Commented Dec 14, 2014 at 23:13
  • Yes, that's kind of the point I was making :)
    – ConMan
    Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 2:28

To describe "Special" and OVA, we need to describe what's "normal" anime.
Usually anime (TV series anime) is broad-casted weekly. It will continue 13 or more weeks. It's usually free with Television advertisement (and has eye-catch at center of episode). TV station have their code: no pantsu scene, no violence scene. The DVD (or BD) will be release later.

Special (aka TV Special) is not weekly. Usually yearly or one shot. It's have only one episode but it's have longer length (ex 2 hours). It's still intended for broadcast. Need to meet broadcast code.

OVA is created for selling (by Video or DVD). It's intended to the small number of viewer without advertisement. It means more otaku friendly theme. No need to follow broadcast code. It's OK to have hard violence scene.

But, in recent time, some OVA was broadcasting with censorship. On the other hand, some TV series is on air with censorship, and selling DVD (or BD) without censorship version. The boundary became ambiguous.

Other category is anime movie which is intended to show in theater. Anime movie is between special and OVA.

The anime Lupin the Third has all TV series version, OVA, Anime movie and TV Special. In this case, special version is yearly release.

  • 1
    "TV station have their code: no pantsu scene, no violence scene." saying "no violence" may be way to generic as if the TV Station's code is not to air any violence, then Anime like Naruto, Bleach, One Piece and Fairy Tail couldn't be aired (due to violence). i know for certain that some shows with violence can't be aired at particular times due to the audience (this shows with violence are aired much later)
    – Memor-X
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 21:19
  • TV station doesn't open the detail of code and we guess it's different between morning anime (like precure), evening anime (like naruto) and late night anime. but for example "Case Closed" draw blood as black instead of red, due to the code that they shouldn't show blood.
    – kumagoro
    Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 5:55

OVA stands for Original Video Animation, this means these episodes are much like "Beta-tests." Or they can be anything that isn't related to the Anime itself, for example; In the Anime "Clannad" there is an OVA episode where Tomoyo /Spoilers/ and Tomoya have a romantic relationship, however in the actual series this relationship does not exist, but it does within the OVA. The OVA's are separate from the series, and are usually just a little bonus from the producers, however it should be noted that they are non-canonical and should be treated as such. I hope this can help.

  • 1
    this means these episodes are much like "Beta-tests." Maybe, maybe not. Some series are done entirely as OVA.
    – nhahtdh
    Commented Dec 14, 2014 at 22:46
  • should just add that not all are non-canonical, the 3rd season of Maria Watches Over Us is entirely OVA and it is still cannon due to the fact that the 4th season makes references to Yumi's Vacation with Sachiko. also to add what @nhahtdh said, not just Maria Watches Over Us but Baka and Test and Full Metal Panic had an entire season as an OVA and these were released long after the original seasons so they aren't "Beta-tests"
    – Memor-X
    Commented Dec 14, 2014 at 22:51

OVAs are not special episodes, as its own name states: Original Video Animation (OVA) they were made for video consumption and had no limitations (censorship) with the intention to expand the market to a more mature audience. There's also ONA (Original Net Animation) which has been conceived to premiere in the Internet.

  • It's not clear from your answer how OVAs actually differ from specials. Please clarify your answer and provide additional details and sourcing.
    – kuwaly
    Commented May 9, 2018 at 10:13

OVA is a fickle idea, and changes it purpose from title to title. The one thing that seems to hold in most all of them is that OVA is much closer to what the original writer invisioned. Some series originally release with OVA because the writer can produce a quality high enough for public release. Others release OVA afterwards, when the project gets more funding, so it can be completed as they wanted to originally, but couldn't afford. Take it as you will.

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